It was no surprise to me that when Duckhugger arrived at the party he’d brought his special Tarot deck. He’s been after me to play an ancient card game with them since ’06.
Apparently, before Tarot decks were used for pop fortune telling they were used for this game played by nobility.
In place of the Fool, this deck has The Excuse, ‘an un-numbered card that in some variations excuses the player from following suit or playing a trump, and in others acts as the strongest trump.’
In the Italian this card was called “Individual Foolishness” while the one we know as “The World” is called “Collective Foolishness”. It features multiple clowns that become military troops in the reverse.
One day, Duckhugger called the Radio 8-Ball to ask about spreading this game. In a way I found it the ultimate irony: music and cards had switched places as oracle.
Once upon a time (about 10 years ago), listening to the music on the radio was simply for entertainment while looking for meaning in a random assortment of cards was serious business.
It got me to thinking about the origins of oracle. Perhaps it had always been just fun. Thinking back to the first shaman that decided to share his thoughts about the cracks in the shoulder bones of an ox.
“C’mere, check this out! It looks like it’s going to rain this spring! (hee hee hee)”
“Hey, you’re right. It does!”
“I am? Hmmm. And this line means it’s going to be dry in the summer! (hee hee hee).”
“Hey, everbody, check out what Jusby discovered! He can tell the future!”
Duckhugger said, “Well, of course, tea drinking pre-dates reading tea leaves.”
“Of course, first you gotta make some tea. Then you gotta think of some crazy thing to say when you’re staring at the bottom of the empty cup.”
2 thoughts on “The Excuse”
I think you misheard me on one detail there… This card isn’t the same as the “individual” and “collective” foolishness cards I mentioned. I wish I had had a French deck on hand to show you. In that deck there is an “Excuse”/”Fool” card similar to this one (although the design depicts a man with a feathered hat playing a mandolin).
The card in that deck that can be described as “Individual Foolishness” (although it’s not marked as such)… is the 1 of Trumps (what would be “the Magician” or “Trivial Performer” in other decks such as the Itallian one). On one half you see a jester presenting a rose to a lady on stage. On the other half a scholar looks like he’s lecturing a man wearing the clothes of a clown, a jester is also here peeking onto stage from behind the curtain behind the scholar.
The card in the deck described as “Collective Foolishness” is the final 21 of Trumps. Known as “The World” in many decks… it’s on one half it shows a rollicking party with noblemen, ladies, and a clown and jester behind them. On the other half it depicts a line of soldiers and a general marching by and directly behind him is a jester in a humorous stance.
Oh yeah… and that is the French Deck and only the French deck that has that “Individual and Collective Foolishness” thing.
The Italian designs are more like the Tarot we know from many fortune telling decks with familiar subjects like Magician, Popess (aka High Priestess), Empress, Emperor, Pope (Heirophant), Devil, Death, Sun, Moon, Star, Angel, World…
The card that you scanned in was from the Austrian deck put out by Piatnik, a card making company from Austria. The Austrian deck is slightly similar to the French deck in only the sense that it’s designs bear no resemblance to the Italian and focus more on “daily life” type images rather than grand Archetypes. The images on the Austrian trump cards, however (save for the resemblance between the Excuse/Fool card), is completely different.
This page is a good one to look at for Tarot card history and images:
direct to page on Austrian Tarot:
direct to page on Swiss & French Tarot: